I do not enjoy clouds. Simple as that.
Okay, so maybe I do most days but when I’m flying I do not enjoy them. We have seen some wickedly awesome clouds this week. From floating wisps to angry dark ones… And currently… Fluffy white ones that make this stinkin small plane bounce like crazy.
Clouds are a part of our everyday life as well… In our lives we have clouds that cross our path that block the view temporarily. We have clouds that dump rain on our plans and alter our paths, especially if the rain has caused current roads to wash out… Some clouds are wicked and then reveal gorgeous rainbows… And some just make you bounce from here to there…
Life is full of clouds. And in the midst of bumps or uncertainties it’s important to hold steady… Maybe duck below them, maybe rise above them, but most of the time it’s necessary to go through them… There’s always purpose. We are never alone. And there’s always someone that has the full view…
(Trying to enjoy the ride…)
sitting in a plastic lawn chair inside a very hot upper room on our last night in Haiti I’m listening to the generators run outside the Byxbe’s home. It’s a white noise that is incredibly comforting to hear. The few times it has slowed and become silent the lights go dark, the fans stop and you hold your breath… And wait to see how long the generator will take to kick back on.
In America it’s a simple thing that you can own or rent… It’s a spare. Or a means to power an event such as a concert. It’s not necessary to everyday living… Here generators have a different daily purpose.
Last year when we stepped onto Haitian soil it was all new. All different. My eyes were glued to everything around me… This year it’s a bit like going to grandmas house. It’s not your home but you know where things are, how they work, and what to expect (except for the rat/mouse I literally just saw run across the floor… No joke.)
Instead of watching the environment this year I watched the people on our team… I have been so excited for this team to meet this part of our family… And to experience this culture and to see what God is going to do in their lives in the coming weeks months and years because of their obedience to the come…
I have found myself on the brink of tears often on this trip. Sometimes I’m able to pin point exactly why and sometimes it’s more than words… A lot of them are tears of gratitude.
I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to introduce 35 of our dearest friends to the ministry of together we can. We love the Byxbe’s. We love their heart for the people of Haiti. Their vision and passion for the gospel. We love their children. We love their bold-faced spit-at-the-impossible attitude… We simply love them… And it’s been such a privilege and exciting honor to intro friends to friends.
I’m grateful for our team. These 13 men and women have been incredible. Incredible. We have experienced the most bi-polar weather ever!!! We have sweated until our faces are melting and then froze half to death within the same 12 hours. We have gone without 8 bags of luggage… 4 of which were personal clothing bags. These folks have gone completely to the brink physically… Buckets of water and gravel up and down hill after hill… Foot after foot of trench digging, pushing a concrete mixer up and down hills that are ridiculous, and ridden for hours in the back of a pick up truck (28 people plus 4 days worth of camping supplies in an extended cab truck… No joke. No lie.) there has not been one… Count it… ONE meltdown on this trip. Not one.
The Haitian lifestyle had made me grateful for the American lifestyle and sorrowful for the ways that we squander it….
I’m so incredibly grateful for my children. For the fact they are clothed. Fed. Educated. Loved. Clean (85% of the time). Heathy. When you see children walking on cliffs with the most ragged dressed and no shoes yet waving fanatically and smiling from ear to ear as you drive by it sucker punches you… The simple life of a Haitian child. Oh how bittersweet.
I’m beyond grateful for a man that loves Jesus. Stephen had the opportunity to meet with 15 local pastors a few days. Some of these men walked over an hour and half to spend time in the word and be poured into as pastors. Each day as we traveled the mountain road and stopped where the conference was being held I watched as my man hopped off the back of the truck and walked away to talk about the thing he loves most in his life… His savior. There’s nothing more endearing that seeing that. The intesifying burden and passion for the gospel in my husband over the last year is one of the biggest blessings in my life… Then to see him spend the afternoon swinging a pick axe or using and shovel and laughing around the fire with him under the stars… Gratitude. Nothing better.
Gratitude is such a small word for the welling emotion that summarizes much… Gratitude should be a generator… It should generate a thankful attitude. It should generate love and compassion for people. People I want to love and show compassion to and people that I have no desire to love. Gratitude is fueled by recognizing and resting in my Savior and the grace He has given freely to me… Completely undeserved. Completely unmerited. And completely for His glory.
Mission trips tend to be extreme in some, or many ways… But the emotion, convictions, and challenges they present shouldn’t be left on foreign soil… They should generate change at home. They should stir and prompt growth in my everyday life…
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! (Psalm 92:2, 4-5 ESV)
Laying on an air mattress (with one hip digging the ground), listening to crickets and creole… Bracing for the cold that may or may not come… I’m reminded again and again of Gods steadfastness and faithfulness.
The last couple nights have been physically tough… Melatonin is at a low point and dark cold nights have seemed endless at moments. But, every morning… The sun rises, the warmth increases and we lived to see another day…
Each afternoon as we’ve shoveled and dug… Just when the heat has seemed too oppressing, the sky opens up… And the lightest, coolest, sweetest drizzle spits sweet relief on us…
Then the night breeze picks up and the fog rolls in and a beautiful evening is spent around a campfire surrounded by rainbows and mountains and just plain beauty!!
So… It is good to give praise to the Lord!!! I will declare his faithfulness in the morning and his steadfastness in the evening!!! God is good. God is faithful. He is sovereign. And He and all that He is doing is exciting!!!
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your songs again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes…
Bless the Lord oh my soul
Flying into Miami we were able to see. The sun rise over the wings of the plane and the ocean. Gorgeous.
At night here in Montroise, the nights are blacker and the stars and more brilliant.
The smiles of these dark skinned beauties are beyond gorgeous.
Gods hand is eve ident everywhere… Sometimes discomfort can hide Gods majesty and sometimes when comfort is stripped it becomes more evident…
There are still eight of us with missing luggage. Five of us without clothing… I’ll admit the thought of no underwear has almost brought me to tears if I’m honest…
However… It’s a make it work situation. The passing of clothes from one person to another is another small evidence of grace found in a body of believers. Like the church in Acts, every need of the believers were met by the excess of other believers…
So this morning we enter the mountains… We enter with full hearts, hope, or rather, dreams of luggage being delivered, and readiness to take the Gospel through love and deed to this new area in the gorgeous mountains of Haiti.
Until Tuesday… May the Lord bless you and keep you… Please continue to pray for our team.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
I remember last year in Haiti hearing that nothing ever goes as planned… And for the most part that rang true… Nothing bad, just nothing according to our plans.
This year we are following in those same footsteps… We had great flights and made it through immigration without a hitch… Then came baggage.
Let’s just say there are several of us without clothing and toiletries at the moment.
But… First, in the end… That is minimal. I could wear the same clothing for seven days straight and the Gospel would still move forward and second… How awesome to know that we were created to do good by, through and for the sake of Christ and those works were laid out for our team way before any of us purchased our plane ticket or even had the thought to step foot on Haitian soil… Nothing is a surprise to Him.
Pray for our team as we hit the ground tomorrow… Pray for the hearts we encounter and that the love of Christ and the power of the Gospel be evident in our lives… And selfishly please pray we get our luggage.
Sitting in room 308 we are in holding… There’s a group of us in holding… And waiting… We have mere hours before boarding a plane to go serve alongside friends in Haiti.
When I was 17 I packed my bags, kissed my mom goodbye and headed overseas for my first mission trip…
Missions have always intrigued me. I remember eating fried bananas in GAs, listening to friends talk about their time in India, feeling pulled to some exotic location in my teens and dreaming of who knows what… It seemed terribly romantic in some weird way… Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong… They have entire seasonal offerings named after them for Petes sake…
So, when opportunity came to start my traveling I used all forms of persuasion and logic to gain permission from my parents to go…
Fast forward several years and Stephen and I began planning for a life overseas. We had plans and aspirations… Then life interrupted and our course was altered…
Enter married life… Over our almost 17 years together we have done missions together almost every year… Ukraine, Lebanon, Philippines, Kenya and Haiti. Each trip unique and so different…
Here’s the deal though… Until last year I didn’t have a current passport for most of those years and my feet never left American soil… I was in holding.
Holding is tough… So many of Stephens trips I would plan and prep activities, calculate costs, weighe luggage strategically (I can pack a mean 49.6 lb bag!) and kiss my man goodbye… Then kiss him hello, have a good American meal on the table and listen to the stories. Oh what great stories…
But this isn’t the full picture… Those weeks in those trips my stomach would turn, I didn’t sleep (I would paint, refinish cabinets, hang shower curtains and pictures), I would take the kids on road trips to family… But most of all I yearned… Ached… Physically hurt wanting to go and be and do with the teams who were serving…
But. I was in holding. It wasn’t my time to be serving in that capacity. (And, I knew I was a part of the team… It just wasn’t always easy when it wasn’t the role I desired…) God had me placed in holding…
It’s always His plan, His timing, His calling… His move….
Tonight. I sit again in holding. But a different holding… I’m waiting with friends in a hotel room for a few more hours before boarding a plane.
I am so exited. This is year two of hitting Haitian soil. Year two of introducing old friends to new friends. Year two of packing and squeezing and pushing and pulling all types of stuff into luggage of every size and shape that our friends and family collected and gave whole heartedly to share with the Agape kids and friends… Year two of FBCnl partnering with the Byxbe family… Year two watching our teams faces and hearts shift and change as their experience life on mission… Year two of getting sweaty for the Gospel. It doesn’t get old…
So as I wait these last few hours… My heart is full and Bursting with gratitude….
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
Gods prepared these moments… God has prepared these friends for these moments and all of it for His glory…
I’ve been cleaning out some places that haven’t been touched in a while and I have run across old cards, letters, returned checks and more… Such sweet junk… 🙂
One thing I ran across though that made me reflect, and laugh, was our Christmas letter to friends and family in December of 2007. Here it is… (I’m going somewhere with this… promise…)
My life is but a weaving, between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors, He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow and I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I the under side.
Not ’til the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned,
He knows, He loves, He cares, nothing this truth can dim,
He gives His very best to those who leave the choice to Him. – Author Unknown
This year as the Christmas season approached we found our hearts overcome by emotions. Simply put… this past year has been a ride.
About three weeks ago we moved, again, to another house located in Vandalia. It’s one-mile from the church where Stephen and I still work, FBC Vandalia. Our house is getting put in order as we speak and we did finally get our tree up and decorated. (It was up for about four days without a single ornament on it.)
The move though, was one of the simpler things this year. In early March Stephen’s grandfather, whom many of your know, Charles Betts, had a stroke. The four-months that followed were an up and down journey that ultimately ended when God called Papaw home on July 18th. Papaw’s illness caused so many ripples in our lives that we will never be the same.
We experienced such loss that at times it has been unbearable. Papaw was not just a papaw to us. He was our pastor, a mentor, our boss, a great-papaw, the constant, the rock of our family, and truly the most godly man that has ever touched our lives.
However, in the midst of everything God continues to move and work through our lives, the lives of our children, the lives of our families and the life of our church. Each day that has passed this year we’ve found a new strand being woven into our tapestry. Many of them we would not have chosen for ourselves.
However, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” We are resting and celebrating Christmas, knowing that one day the beauty will be revealed on the upper side.
This March we will welcome another baby into our family. This is yet another way that God showed His riches to us: As we experienced the loss of a great man, we were reminded that God creates life and sometimes during the most unexpected times…
I know this is a little longer than normal but our year hasn’t been exactly normal. Just yesterday I told stephen that I would really be content if in 2008 we didn’t experience life at all. I know that’s not feasible, but it was a nice thought. However, as we’ve looked back over the year, we can’t wish away any of the threads because they truly are working together and one day we’ll see the end results…”
So… laughable… “I would really be content if in 2008 we didn’t experience life…” Ha! 2008… 2008 we left everything we had know for 8 years (and really more like 22 for me…) and moved to a new town, new church, new job, new baby, new schools… new everything! It was a year of change.
Oh, how grateful I am that God has control and knows what’s best… 2007 was a tough year… 2008 was a growing year… both of those years accelerated our growing up… and maybe the grays… it toughened our skin, forced us into situations where wisdom was necessary, it tore our guts out at times, it forced us out of comfort zones, we cried, laughed, wanted to hit things, smiled and sometimes just sat puzzled… and those years played a part in the life we have today.
To look back and regret is a hard pill to swallow but to be able to look back, with a bittersweet smile, and see the path God walked with us on is invaluable… If you’re in a tough spot… keep walking… This year, 2015, has just begun and I am so excited… (a bit nervous and apprehensive too) about what this year holds… what paths our feet will walk, what stories will be written, and what threads will be woven into our lives…
One of my favorite verses right now is Isaiah 30:21: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” Sometimes we don’t have the full directions printed out, we can’t see the right side of the tapestry… but we do have a Guide that is giving us the next step, the next turn… “This is the way, walk in it…”